Monday FINALLY came and my wife wanted a second chance at finding the Sampeng market in Chinatown. I was pretty much down for anything because I was stoked for training at Arete Brazilian Jiu-jitsu later that night. She could have told me to eat octopus testicles and I would have been, like…”YUP”! I had BJJ coming up that night so I hadn’t a care!
My last training had been on Tuesday the 5th of Jan, and here it was Mon the 11th…Almost a full week!!! I NEVER take a full week off BJJ! Normally, if I take more than two or three days off I start getting grumpy and my wife will say…”Honey…you need to go to Jiu-Jitsu”! But here it was, six days since my last training (at GB Knoxville) and I was totally stoked. First, though, I had to get through a day of searching through Chinatown for this very specific market my wife wanted to visit!
This time, Peggy had it “on-point.” She took us straight to the market and we walked through pretty much every single inch of it. Here at the Sampeng market, the streets are super narrow, covered by awnings (to keep the rain out) and stuffed with pretty much anything you could want and a bunch of stuff you might never want. Everyting from fresh fish, to durian fruits, to Stewed fish balls, to plastic toys, high-end Knock-off shoes and purses to can openers, metal files and collectible stickers…oh, and tons of fabrics!
More than once I felt like I was walking through a scene in BladeRunner or The Fifth Element (one of these movies is better than the other…you be the judge 🙂 ) But we did manage to take a sweet shot for an updated FB profile pic 🙂
Anyway…After the Sampeng market we stopped at our normal little lunch diner and then went back to the guesthouse to get a little rest and get ready for BJJ.
I contacted Arete a couple days ahead of time (per my “rules of travel“) and had been told by Mitsu to “Come on in”! I checked Google for directions and time estimates and saw an estimate of about 40 minutes to get to Panjit Tower, where Arete is located on the second floor. We hailed a cab at 5:30 pm and headed on our way. Turns out,forty minutes was a very generous estimate! By the time we got to Panjit Tower it was about 6:35 (I absolutely HATE being late, especially to a new academy). I am normally habitually early for BJJ because I am terrified of offending my (or any) Professor.
Regardless, Mitsu-San simply said, “Jump right in”! so I did a quick change and joined the group in the warm ups.
One thing I always like to comment on are the warm-ups. they can be really varied from super-hard “Are you kidding me – I’m dyin’ over hear!” type workouts to…”That was easy” style. I use a 1-10 ranking system for warm-ups…1 being..wow, this must be Gracie University, to 10 being…I can’t do the training because…warm-up!
I felt like Arete fell in around a 6.5 on my warm-up scale (this is all based on only one night’s training). I liked it! We started with a lot of running: knees up running, feet high running, shuffling in, shuffling out…pretty standard stuff. One thing I really liked was the “group up” game. This is something I had never experienced before. As we ran around the mats Coach Andrew would call out a number, “3”, or “5”,or whatever and then everybody was expected to find enough people to form a group of “whatever” number…it was like a big group hug in the middle of training! It was especially endearing as a visitor feeling unsure or nervous about fitting in. What is more assuring than a bunch of people running at you smiling and laughing, wanting you to be a part of their group?!! However…if you fell out as an odd person you had to do ten burpees in the center as people ran around you. I hate burpees! But, I did like that everyone would get excited and laugh when Coach yelled out a number. It seemed like the kind of thing that brings people together more on a personal scale than just “Mat Partners”.
Class consisted of a LOT of technique including a cool judo counter to a single leg take-down, several variations on a back take, and two variations on a bake-take / S-mount / choke combination that I hadn’t thought of before. It was pretty awesome actually!
Once it came time to free roll, I paired up with Jun, who had been my training partner all night. We had a good roll with Jun really pushing his guard passing! We went the six minutes and ended in a stalemate.
Next up, I rolled with a tough blue belt who is highly competitive in the region! He pushed the pace hard and I found myself running out of gas. Yes, it’s true, I had eaten a spicy Thai dish for lunch (which wasn’t helping), but more significantly, the humidity was killing me. It was in the low 90’s in Bangkok and the humidity was somewhere around 90 percent! That is the worst for me!! No excuses though, in the end we rolled to a draw and I just had to take a break! My lugs were heaving! It had been a week since my last training session and all I had done in-between was eat airplane food and spicy Thai food 🙂
Then I did two rounds with another tough blue belt, Chris, who has been bouncing back and forth between KL (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) and Bangkok for a few years. He was tough! We had a great couple rolls with battling sweeps and guard passes on both sides. In the end I felt like it was pretty even but that he may have had the upper hand overall!
I took a round off and then after six minutes of rest Coach Andrew was saying…”Wanna Roll”?
Haha…the truth is..I was like…”Aw hell…” But, after all, I didn’t travel 9000 miles to sit by the window so…”Sure”!
Now, what comes next is a complicated bunch of statements mostly consisting of “ooh”, “ouch”, “Oh”, and “AAAAH”…followed immediately by “TAP, “TAP”, and more “TAP”!
No joke, Coach Andrew reminded me very much of my home school, The Ohio Combat Sports Academy, in that he played a very classical game with lots of pressure from the top. Once he gets side control on you…you know it! Beyond that, he passed my guard, mounted at will and was even working a mounted triangle when the bell rung (which would have been the fourth tap of the round)!
Now, I will say this…I have become fairly comfortable as a purple belt. After travelling all over, training with World Champs in Ohio; Back-taking Monsters in Knoxville; and the “Castello” of De La Riva Jiu-Jitsu in Rio de Janeiro I know I am right about where I belong. I’ve even won a few medals at this rank. That said, Rolling with Coach Andrew MacDonald was like wrestling with a Tsunami. You can stand your ground, face it with a mean look on your face, but as soon as it hits you, you are going wherever it wants you to! That is a pretty good summation of how I felt rolling with Andrew. Somebody promote this guy already 🙂
In summary…I found Arete Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Bangkok to be a super-friendly gym, with friendly people, training at a high level. I really don’t know what more you could ask for when dropping into Bangkok. I know there are a couple other BJJ academies in Bangkok but I don’t think I feel the need to go elsewhere. The guys at Arete BJJ are awesome and will give you a hell of a workout and some great technique!
Thanks go out to Coaches Mitsu-San and Andrew for allowing me to train with them and to Jun (from Korea) for working with me for the session.
Until then…OSS and “Good Training”!